Archive for January, 2012

My recent reading is bringing home to me what I should have realised long ago; that successive attempts to ‘define God’ or ‘prove’ that God exists, or do the opposite, are pursued only by people whose mindsets are steeped in the materialism and individualism typical of Western culture.  Were it not for the rise of radical Islam since 2001, this essentially sterile debate would have run out years ago, for want of fuel and under pressure from new concerns and ideas. (more…)

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The dreadful evidence being put forward by the prosecution in the witch-murder trial at the Old Bailey this week is heart-ending.   It alleges that the children were abused, and one of them killed, because the adults involved believed that sorcery had entered the household through the victim and battened upon them all.

This reminds me of something that happened in South Africa in the mid-1990s.  There had been a recurrence of witch-burning in Northern Province (now Limpopo Province): a recurrent problem there caused by a fatal conjunction between two givens.  On the one hand, ordinary grievances and the readiness of those involved to resort to vigilante tactics – house-burning, lynching and so forth – to resolve them; on the other hand, a widespread community conviction that victims of such mob action were witches and deserved to die.  A working party of appropriate people was set up and tasked to see what could be done about this situation.

In due course the group reported their findings and recommendations at an open hearing by the provincial government.  When they had had their say,a provincial minister exclaimed, more or less, “Yes, yes, these proposals are fine, but inadequate:  I have yet to hear from you what measures we can take to combat witchcraft in Northern Province.”  The working party was at a loss for words.

As far as I am concerned, and despite what the Pope and Islamists say, people are free to believe what they want, so long as nobody else gets hurt by their exercise of such a freedom.  That is clearly the nub of the case now going on in London.  What gets to me is the powerful impression that the accused were convinced that they were in a life-or-death struggle against malign powers.

The terror that must be felt by those people, all over the world, who believe in such forces and are terrified of them!  I include those who wreaked havoc amongst families in the Orkneys in 1991 because they just ‘knew’ that Satanism was prevalent there.  They must live in a never-ending nightmare, punctuated by sheer panic.

These terrors give birth to evil, right enough, but that is because they are the Original Sin in this nighmare, lodged in and nurtured by people who must be both pitied and stopped.  The tragedy is that if the Old Bailey accused are convicted they will probably be baffled as to why the state is thereby ignoring an unimaginably greater threat than imprisonment: one to which it seems blithely indifferent.

What can be done?  We in Britain stopped believing in witches in the early 1700s.  What went right?  At what stage were wwe mature enough, and finally trusting enough, to understand what the prophet told us by the waters of Babylon, centuries ago, that “They shall dwell securely and none shall make them afraid” (Ezekiel 34:28)? And how can we persuade others that this is so?

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